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Building Student Input in Your Syllabus

Developed by Talisa Feliciano

As Bettina Love has noted, abolitionist teaching moves from, or with, critiques of injustice, towards liberation. This approach requires educators to put in “the work” of organizing around education in ways that center students, specifically from underrepresented backgrounds in newly created educational systems. bell hooks encourages the creation of an active relationship between educators and learners through the framework of an engaged pedagogy that is decolonial, collaborative, and anti-racist. This workshop will explore how we, as instructors, can facilitate learner input on syllabi as a fundamental tool in abolitionist and engaged pedagogy.

This workshop will mix both synchronous and asynchronous elements, and will model how participants can encourage/empower learners to develop the content and structures that guide their own learning experiences. Participants will be asked to respond to this survey and watch an introduction video to create a base syllabi. Participants will then be invited to join a Zoom meeting where they will be encouraged to open up their syllabi for student input. By the end of the workshop, participants will have a complete or near complete syllabus template to incorporate student input.

Learning Goals

  • Adapt course and syllabi to encourage learner input
  • To discuss and develop learner based pedagogy
  • To reorient assessment strategies away from point based grading and towards open learning
  • Encourage learners to determine learning goals democratically in a group setting alongside the instructor

Introduction

Abolitionist teaching (Love 2019) moving from, or with, critiques of injustice, towards liberation requires educators to put in “the work” of organizing around education in ways that center students, specifically from underrepresented backgrounds in newly created educational systems. hooks (2010)  encourages the creation of an active relationship between educators and learners through the framework of an engaged pedagogy that is decolonial, collaborative, and anti-racist. This workshop proposes building learner input on syllabi as a fundamental tool in abolitionist and engaged pedagogy.

For this workshop participants will be asked to engage in a YouTube video Repurposing Our Pedagogies: Abolitionist Teaching in a Global Pandemic” and read some excerpts from bell hooks’ Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom keeping in mind the following guiding questions: 

  • What values inform my teaching practice? 
  • What parts of the educational system no longer serve the needs of the learning community? 
  • How can I design a course that aligns with abolitionist pedagogy and uplifts Black and brown voices? 
  • Where is there room for collaboration in my course? 
  • How can I expect learners to contribute to the design of the course/syllabi?

Participants are then invited to fill out a self assessment, watch a video on how to create a syllabus, and join other participants for a Zoom meeting to discuss the shared resources and questions or concerns on collaborative syllabi. 

Activity

[1] Watch the Introduction video and syllabus template video on YouTube by June 25th (You can watch these videos as often as necessary)

[2] Fill out this self-assessment form/survey by June 25th.

[3] Participants are asked to complete a short reading from bell hooks’ Teaching Critical Thinking “Engaged Pedagogy” and “Decolonization” and to watch this YouTube video Repurposing Our Pedagogies: Abolitionist Teaching in a Global Pandemic”. 

Some Guiding Questions for these resources:

  • What values inform my teaching practice? 
  • What parts of the educational system no longer serve the needs of the learning community? 
  • How can I design a course that aligns with abolitionist pedagogy and uplifts Black and brown voices? 
  • Where is there room for collaboration in my course? 
  • How can I expect learners to contribute to the design of the course/syllabi?

[4] Begin an adaptable syllabus template using the platform of your choice 

[5] Join Zoom meeting Friday June 26th at 11am-noon  to troubleshoot, meet, and collaborate with other participants

*You do not need to have a fully fleshed out syllabus for this meeting

Technical Requirements

You will need some familiarity with GSuite, specifically for filling out the survey form and for viewing the intro video on creating the syllabus template, which uses Google Docs to create a template. You need not use these platforms for yourself, they are just suggestions. 

Takeaways

Participants will gain practice in opening up syllabi for collaboration and be introduced to a learner based pedagogical framework. 

Participants will begin a syllabus for their courses.